Two-party system holds back America

Monday, August 18, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:15 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

I imagine that it would be virtually impossible to resolve most grievances if the world was indeed made up of only conservatives and liberals, as many political types seem to believe. This thought occurred to me as I was poring over one of the many news stories on the ordination of the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Church’s bishop of New Hampshire. Undoubtedly, these two groups are married to their positions in both religious and political matters and will vote against each other until hell freezes over. In this case, they have made homosexuality their issue. Those Christians, on the other hand, who have some problems with bishops engaging in sex outside of marriage, regardless of their sexual preference, will probably go prayerfully into their closets and wrestle with the problem for as long as it takes until they come to an acceptable resolution.

But, of course, it always seems to be the conservatives or the liberals who choose the area of debate. These two groups have emerged from the two-party system. I don’t know what it is about belonging to either of the two parties that makes people feel that they are entitled to establish the agenda. Even the fact that they have the whole-hearted support of our supposed watchdogs, the national media, does not grant them this privilege. A government of the people is precisely that, one in which the public is empowered to set the subject of the engagement.

Head-to-head combat ultimately becomes the issue for these parties, while solutions to the real problems go begging. For example, while the economy may be on the upswing for the majority of the multinational corporations, most Missouri communities have not yet experienced the upsurge, so could we talk about how we’re supposed to survive in the meantime? Could we cut all the nonsense out about prescription-drug programs that will go into effect during the next millennium and call a summit for health officials and drug companies to come up with a plan that will make it possible for sick people to get the drugs they need for a price they can afford?

When all the people who disagree with a person can be stamped with the same label and dumped into the same category, that automatically alerts everyone else to the fact that the only views this person holds are the same ones that are held by all of his or her peers. In order to change his or her mind about anything, he or she has to have the permission of the group. This is why so many can come together and accomplish so little. It only takes one word out of a three-word sentence to polarize the two groups; their eardrums shut down after that. I’d be willing to bet if you pulled those who identify themselves as liberals and conservatives out of any political or religious debate, those left standing could probably reach a compromise before lunch. The primary reason why individuals from these two groups emerge as leaders is that they wear everyone else down with their tired, age-worn viewpoints, their dreary personalities and their lackluster diatribes.

A lot of people want to be convinced that the country will suffer no permanent damage no matter what the government does. They feel that the country can sustain whatever damage may be inflicted. I think they want to believe that because it’s too painful to consider the possibility that they may, in some way, have caused future generations to have to suffer for the sins of the past. They don’t want to have to look their children and grandchildren in the eyes and admit that they went to sleep on their watch and allowed the government to get out of control.

According to the news reports, the cost of rebuilding Iraq is billions of dollars. The recipients of these billions will primarily, of course, be major American corporations. In the meantime, across America, some states are so strapped for money that they are having to curtail vital services. Will the next generation still be paying the price of the war and will they have more friends in the world for the effort or fewer? Only time will tell.

For a long time people felt that if they didn’t like the way the country was going, they could go to the polls and vote a change. Not so any more. The two parties have the electoral process all tied up. The next president will be either a Republican or a Democrat chosen by their political party. If your choice happens to be neither of the above, you can always write in your own candidate. It won’t matter; you will still get one of the above.

Has the country suffered any permanent damage from this state of affairs? It depends on how one measures things. It hasn’t collapsed yet, and for some, that may be all that matters.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen

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